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French snub biggest film hit

FRENCH cinema has held its version of the Oscars in a ceremony where self-congratulation after a year of box office and critical triumphs was dosed by claims that the biggest hit of all was snubbed.

The annual Cesars awards on Friday provide the local industry with a glitzy if rarely glitch-free night often mocked in France for its mix of gushing tributes and gaffes by stars and presenters.

French cinema had an unusually successful year to look back on, with actress Marion Cotillard winning an Oscar, the first French film winner at Cannes in more than 20 years, and the country's biggest box-office take.

But controversy is rarely far away and this year there were claims that the Cesars ignored the popular comedy "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" (Welcome to the Sticks).

The Best Film award went to "Seraphine," the true story of a domestic servant who became an artist before World War I. The film won good reviews but it was no match for "Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis" at the box office.

The story of a post office executive transferred to the far north of France and forced to deal with rain, strange food and incomprehensible accents, "Les Ch'tis" was seen by more than 20 million to become the biggest French hit of all time.

Star and director Dany Boon, reported by the daily Le Figaro to have earned 26 million euros (US$33.06 million) from the film, had declared he would not attend the ceremony because it has only been nominated for one award - Best Screenplay.

But he relented and even presented an award. "I was at home in front of the television and I said to myself. 'Don't be stupid, Dany, go on'," he said. "I'm not going to sulk."


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